Daily Cosmobite: Centenary of Sir David Gill’s death

Sir David GillSir David Gill died in 1914. Among many achievements he took a photo of the “Great Comet” of 1882. The appearance of previously unseen stars in the background spurred two projects, the Astrographic Catalogue and the Carte du Ciel, to catalogue and map the entire sky using photography.





Sir David Gill.  Lick Observatory collection via wiki.

2 responses to “Daily Cosmobite: Centenary of Sir David Gill’s death

  • I’ve always admired David Gill and his passion for astronomy. and i’ve read much about him and the double stars work in South Africa. It is remarkable how many capable Scottish astronomers, scientists or capable individuals ended up in Southern Hemisphere during the 19th Century. I.e. James Dunlop, Thomas Brisbane, R.T..Innes, Thomas Henderson, Ralph Copland and Williamina Fleming. He died BTW on the 24 January 1914.

    (I’ve been doing some work on another Scottish man, who was a friend of Dunlop and NSW politician, Rev. Dr.John Dunmore Lang, who spanned the period between Parramatta Observatory and H.C. Russell at Sydney Observatory.)

    George Forbes’ biography “David Gill, Man and Astronomer ; Memoirs of Sir David Gill, K.C.B., H.M. astronomer (1879-1907) at the Cape of Good Hope (1916)” highlights the extraordinary career, saying:

    “To David Gill astronomy was almost a religion. This reverence for his chosen science was tempered by human sympathies; and the present book, while telling of his growth, from schoolboy and watchmaker to leader of astronomical research, deals also with his friendships, his
    delightful social and domestic life, his humour, his enjoyment of the world and his varied employments…. Into all his work and recreations he had the power of throwing an enthusiastic eagerness and joy which were infectious and attracted to him a wide circle of companions in widely varied pursuits.”
    This biography can be downloaded at;

    • Andrew, Thank you for the biography link. He sounds more interesting than I first thought. I’m glad you mentioned his date of death was in January. We missed that anniversary but he will feature in the new exhibition in the East Dome (as it is now known).
      And as for the very influential Rev. Lang – and this is completely unconnected with Gill – he was instrumental in the return of the E520 Earnshaw chronometer to Australia. The story is told in Thomas Tooth’s “It was all a matter of time” but doesn’t seem to be online. I will have to write a blog about it!

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